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Improved Performance to progress into the last 16
In this County Cup match the Urchins were drawn against Ecko Whitecaps (red) who judging from their league position would make for tough opposition on this mild November morning.
The Urchins welcomed back skipper Nathan into the team after a 6 week layoff through injury. This meant that Tony had a full squad available for the first time in many weeks which was a welcome surprise.
The game commenced and it was clear from early on that Whitecaps were a big physical team that played a fairly direct brand of football. However, the game was an even contest with both teams threatening early on without really doing enough to test the respective keepers.
Whitecaps went close when Nathan was nutmegged before the same player hit a rasping drive just wide of the post. However, the Urchins countered when Nathan's free kick caused panic in the heart of the Whitecaps defence with John almost reaping the rewards before the ball was cleared.
However, it was the away team that took the lead. It came from a swift break away down the right side which the Urchins seemed to have covered. However, an attempted shot appeared to be miskicked which surprised the Urchins defenders. The onrushing striker met the ball perfectly on the volley and placed his shot powerfully into the bottom corner. Daniel had no chance with the strike. 1-0 Whitecaps.
This seemed to galvanise the Urchins who finally started to play the sort of football that they are more than capable of. They played the ball out from the back and through the midfield areas time and time again which was very pleasing on the eye.
During this period the Urchins looked threatening and in particular a number of balls were played through for Justin who just failed to get on the end. Then the equaliser came. Nathan surged out of defence and with a neat bit of footwork he managed to sidestep two challenges. Just as he was running out of space he prodded a perfect slide rule pass through to John who had timed his run to perfection. John remained cool and calm. He opened up his body to produce a high quality curling finish past the keepers outstretched hands. A great footballing goal and now there was everything to play for.
Urchins tails were now up as they sensed that they could go on and grab the victory. Another ball was played up to Justin who was unceremoniously pushed to the ground by the giant Whitecaps centre half. The same player had been playing a very physical brand of football up to this point. The young referee decided it was one push too many and he theatrically pointed to the spot to award the Urchins a penalty. To be fair it was a bit of a soft penalty and there were inevitable groans and complaints from the Whitecaps players and supporters.
Max stepped up to take his 3rd penalty of the season to date. However, he was a little too quick and his first effort was called back by the ref who hadn't yet blown his whistle. Max however remained calm and on the retake thumped in an even better effort that the Whitecaps keeper had no chance of saving. Max has now dispatched 3 penalties so far this season and seems to have nerves of steel.
Whitecaps clearly felt aggrieved and started to up the ante. However, the Urchins defensive trio remained strong and were able to prevent the opposition from creating clear cut chances. However, with around 15 minutes of the match remaining skipper Nathan limped off with another injury. Tony made the changes needed in the hope that the Urchins could see out the match. With Nathan out of the defensive unit Whitecaps seemed intent on exploiting this enforced change. They threw everything they had at the Urchins and they looked more than capable of evening up the score. Daniel made a great save at the death when the tall Whitecaps midfielder was clean through on goal.
At the end though the whistle blew and the Urchins rightly celebrated a well fought win. This was their first win since they won through the last round of the cup and it was badly needed to restore flagging confidence after a run of league defeats.
Next up for the Urchins in this competition will be yet another home time against Hawkwell Athletic who play in the same division as Whitecaps. Hawkwell have amassed an eye watering 30 goals in the previous 3 rounds of the competition and they will surely be will be very tough opponents.